Weekly Update – #6 – February 9th, 2019

Health & Fitness

I ran my commute (11.9 miles) for the 5th time. Because it’s unusually cold 🥶 this week, it’s tempting to stay home. But! Running gloves and beanies help.

21,500 steps!

 Actifit is the mobile dapp that incentivizes healthy lifestyle and rewards your everyday activity. You’re probably wondering what the heck that means. I’ll explain later.

Family

One of our twins fell and head butted me leaving me with a black eye. Boom!

This week we are celebrating Lunar New Year aka Chinese New Year. Happy year of the pig! 🐷

Reading

I got a new book! Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. It discusses being more deliberate using smartphones and social media. Principle #1: Clutter is Costly.

I’m also reading a great book called ChiRunning by Danny Dryer. It’s about tweaking your running form as to run with less effort and injury-free.

Writing

Torrey’s Weekly Report (my work-focused blog) now serves 85 subscribers.

And Torrey’s Blog (the one you’re reading now) serves 108 subscribers. Holy cow!

We hit the 💯milestone, team!

Thanks for reading and as always,

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #5 – February 2nd, 2019

This week was the last week of January. Hello February! This week I’ll give some quick updates around Health & Fitness, Reading, and Writing.

Health & Fitness

I gave the gift of life this week, I donated blood. It’s super convenient because my company partners with Red Cross and every 8 weeks they set up a donation station inside our office. Donating blood is a good way to lower blood pressure. In total, I’ve donated a half gallon!

Running

This week I ran to work (11.5 miles) for the 4th time. I almost skipped the run because I needed to join a conference call at the same time. I decided to do both. My coworkers had a laugh at my outdoor running video feed during the meeting. It’s a good thing I didn’t skip because it’s been raining hard the day before and after. Read about my preparation methods for commute running in How to Ditch the Car and Run to Work.

Strava stats for my 4th commute run.

I need to step up my marathon training. The LA Marathon on March 23rd is looming. Rain, rain go away!

Writing

I’m excited about the growth of both of my blogs this week. This blog, Torrey’s Blog, now serves 87 subscribers. My work blog, Torrey’s Weekly Report, now serves 80 subscribers. Awesome! Both have been growing fast in 2019.

Torrey’s Blog

Since Weekly Update #4, I didn’t publish any I’ve spent more time reading and interacting with other blogs. I realized there are a lot of bloggers just starting out writing online. And they don’t receive much feedback. Crickets. Having been there, I know what it feels like. So I take the time to read what they write and leave a positive comment to cheer them on.

As they say, whatever you want in life, give it away. And be the change you want to see.

Torrey’s Weekly Report

This week I published the 12th edition of the report. It’s now reaching 80 colleagues who’ve chose to subscribe. Woot! The report typically spreads through word of mouth, but this week I promoted it to a new group of peers. It’s opt-in only, and 10 of them opted-in.

Reading

Can’t Hurt Me

While on my long run I listened to a few chapters of ultra-athlete David Goggins’s book Can’t Hurt Me. One quote jumped out at me because it aligns with my own COMPETE AGAINST YOURSELF philosophy.

Life is one big mind game, and usually you’re playing against yourself. — David Goggins

Measure What Matters

I’m reading another book called Measure What Matters by John Doerr. It’s about defining Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in organizations. The goals of every member of the team, including executive leaders, are made visible. The net result is better organizational alignment and efficiencies. OKRs are similar to what I call SMART goals, except it’s okay to set semi-unachievable OKRs and only achieve 70% of the goal.

SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

My favorite quote from Measure What Matters is:

In God we trust; all others must bring data. —W. Edwards Deming

Thanks for reading! And

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #4 – January 26th, 2019

From our garden: incoming plumeria blooms

It’s the 4th week of 2019, and there’s a lot to talk about.

Running & Health

This week I ran my first half marathon. I finished in 2 hours 22 minutes. Woot!

Last Sunday I finished my first half marathon race, the Pasadena Half Marathon. This is the second race I’ve done this season, and my third, a full marathon, is coming up in March. No time for taking a week off!

The night before the race I could barely sleep. Everything I needed was laid out. We were to head out at 5am to arrive before street closures and get registered.

The weather was perfect, a bit cloudy but not a drop of rain. Los Angeles received a bunch of rain the week before. So the grass was shining and the air was clear for my run.

Going into the race, I set a goal to finish within 2 hours 45 minutes. But, the morning of I decided to push myself harder and go for 2:30. I finished in 2:22. Woot!

There were hundreds of runners on the course and I felt lost in a sea of people running through the streets of downtown Pasadena and around the Rose Bowl’s golf course. I did appreciate the designated pacers (from LA Road Runners club) who held up signs to indicate their target finish time. I found my 2:30 group and stuck with them.

Hundreds of runners queued up at the starting line

In training the longest distance I ran was 11.5 miles. This was dumb on my part. The last 2 miles of the 13.1 were a struggle. Cramps, blisters, oh my!

What was really cool, and I didn’t realize this before, was the finish line. The race ended inside the Rose Bowl football stadium, home of the UCLA Bruins, on the 50 yard line. After I cooled down a bit, I snapped this awesome picture with Joe and Josie Bruin, the UCLA mascots. Go Bruins!

Such a great experience…I will remember this one for a long time.

Miscellaneous other health stuff

I ran to work for the third time on Friday, following the same route as two weeks ago. I was much slower than usual.

A few weeks ago I made a change to my coffee/caffeine habit. While I’m at the office, I only drink decaf. I’ve noticed on Thursdays and Fridays I feel less burned out. Cutting back caffeine seems to improve sleep quality (go figure!).

Writing

There are now 73 awesome people following this blog. About 10 of you found me in the last few weeks and hit the ‘subscribe’ button. I salute you! Get ready to learn and grow with me.

This didn’t just magically happen. I’ve made more effort to engage with other bloggers in the amazing WordPress ecosystem. Slowly bridges are connecting my little island to the rest of the blogosphere. Engagement is so crucial and so fun!

I published two blog posts on Torrey’s blog this week:

  1. Three Truths — a written version of a 10 minute talk I gave in front of ~100 teammates. Bring Joy, Compete Against Yourself, and Help Others.
  2. How to Ditch the Car and Run To Work — a walkthrough of how I prepare for running my commute. Shower required.

In my nightly journal entries I’ve started recording something unique the twins did/said that day. It’s so much fun going back through these notes.

Reading

I listen to audiobooks and podcasts while I run. I listened to a short, value-packed Audible called Power Moves by Adam Grant, which is about power dynamics in the workplace and government. The book ends with a powerful interview between Adam Grant and Kerry Kennedy (human rights activist and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy).

I’ve just started listening to Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead. This audiobook is read by the author, which is awesome because she excels at speaking. This is my first experience with Brene Brown, and after a few hours of listening I feel like buying a copy of every book she’s published.

I’m experimenting with waking up even earlier (5am) to read. It is challenging to do focused reading when anyone else in the house is awake.

I’ve just finished reading The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene. The last chapter was my favorite and the hardest hitting. It was about 50 cent being shot 9 times (once in the jaw) and facing death. It talked about living life to the fullest, having a sense of urgency and courageously facing death. Carpe diem (sieze the day) and memento mori (remember you will die).

I’ve started ready a tiny book by Seth Godin called The Dip. It’s about pushing through The Resistance to become the best at what you do in your world. And quitting other things that have stagnant growth or diminishing returns. It reminds me a lot of what I wrote about in The Rose Bush Metaphor: How to deal with too many ideas and too little time.

Thanks for your support. Until next time,

have a great week!

How to Ditch the Car and Run To Work

Tomorrow will be the third time I leave the car at home and use my feet to get to work. I’d like to explain my methods for successfully and safely getting there. It’s about 11.5 miles from my home to my office. This guide will be most useful for office workers.

Requirements:

  • shower at destination
  • gym bag and space to store it at work

Preparation the Day Before:

While getting dressed, grab an extra outfit. Include a pair of everything. Throw it in your bag along with towel, toothbrush, razor, deodorant, hair product, or whatever else you need to get ready in the morning. Double check to make sure you have a towel. Trying to shower without a towel is awful, I have learned that lesson once and the hard way.

Bring your bag to work and store it. It will stay overnight. I leave it under my desk.

Before going home at the end of the day, store everything essential and don’t bring home anything you need tomorrow. If you bring home a laptop today, it will be challenging to bring it back with you tomorrow.

When you have a free moment, start planning your route. Use Google Maps directions in walk mode. Select a route that avoids neighborhoods that make you feel unsafe. And make sure the distance is achievable for you. Also consider the total travel time. It will be less than the estimated walking time (you are running).

Coordinate a ride home for the next day. Depending on the distance, it may not be reasonable to run home. I’m not a fan of running through the city in the dark. I ask a friend to pick me up. Alternatively, you could hail a ride from Uber/Lyft.

Preparation Day of:

Wake up early, you need a lot more time to commute today. The first time, it took me 2.5 hours to travel 11.5 miles.

Put on your running outfit.

Pack light. Bring essentials like your ID, credit card, medical card, emergency cash, phone, ear buds. I like to shove all this stuff into an arm band. Running belts also work, or a zipper pocket in your outfit.

Eat a light snack and drink some water. If you skip this step and run a long distance you will regret it. I learned the hard way. Carry extra just in case.

Turn on your fitness tracker app such as Strava or RunKeeper.

Run! Have fun!

When you arrive, grab the bag you stored and hit the showers. Without the shower, none of this works. It’s socially unacceptable to be sweaty and smelly all day. Don’t do that to your coworkers.

Three Truths

Nearly 5 years ago I graduated from the infusion clinic. I looked like I had just been unplugged from the matrix. No hair, no eyebrows, underweight. Thats what happens when you’re injected with chemicals to kill cancer. Graduation day was my last day in the clinic. It was time to begin the next chapter; commencement.


TLDR; Three Truths

Bring Joy

If we all try to bring a little bit more joy, we will all be happier.

Compete Against Yourself

If we all try to compete with ourselves, we will be more productive.

Help Others

If we all try a little harder to help others, we will be more fulfilled by our work.


During my stay at the infusion clinic I crossed paths with a graduate. He was a survivor and I’ve forgotten his name, but I’ll call him Greg. The infusion clinic is not a happy place. It’s a place of very sick, often hairless people fighting their fight. Chemically induced nausea and semi-wasted-away bodies.

Greg came back after graduation to cheer the cancer fighters on. He was a cheerleader who inspired hope. He was there for one purpose: to bring Joy. From Greg I learned how bringing joy can make a huge difference.

Bring joy. Bringing joy makes a huge impact.


After graduation, the whole experience created a sense of urgency in me. I was determined to be a force of good in the world. For a while I wanted to be a life coach, to help people move towards their dreams. I studied books, videos, podcasts, about success, philosophy, business, psychology, etc. What I discovered is for me it all boils down to one truth: COMPETE AGAINST YOURSELF. It’s expressed in other ways like: try to be 1% better than you were yesterday. Grow.

A clear example of this is found in running. When you join a big race, you find yourself in a sea of hundreds of runners. If you chase jackrabbits shooting past you, you’ll burn out quickly and be forced to rest. You have to set your own pace, and run your own race. You have to compete against yourself and best your own Personal Records.

This strategy works when you’re just starting out, trying something new. And it works when you’re the tip of the pyramid, the best of the best. It works when you’re lost in the crowd and when nobody is around. With the compete against yourself mindset, you continuously push yourself to grow.

Even if you’re not a runner, we all run races. There’s the never-ending race for quality. The rat race. The same mindset applies there.

To be your best self you have to compete against yourself.


Where I work there are two people who have been at the company for 20+ years. The have something in common. They both started in tech support, answering customer calls. I think it’s no coincidence they have continued here as long as they have. They have a clearer purpose than the rest of us, they understand customer pain and problems better, and helping customers is in their DNA.

Even if you don’t have customers, there is probably someone out there you are helping indirectly through your work. Understand and connecting with and helping those people makes you feel fulfilled at the end of the day. And when you lose that connection, you start to feel emptier.

Help others. Helping others provides meaning and fulfillment.


TLDR; Three Truths

Bring Joy

If we all try to bring a little bit more joy, we will all be happier.

Compete Against Yourself

If we all try to compete with ourselves, we will be more productive.

Help Others

If we all try a little harder to help others, we will be more fulfilled by our work.

Weekly Update – #3 – January 19th, 2019

Weekly Update – #3 – January 19th, 2019

This week was yet another exciting week. It is unusual receive several days of rain here. While we stayed safe and dry, the team still accomplished a lot. Reminder: You are part of my team.

Health & Fitness

I have relearned the same lesson many times. Health and fitness underpins everything else. To be the best you in mind and body you have to eat right and move your body. For couch potatoes and desk jockeys, making positive changes in the health & fitness area yields 10X results every other area. Negative changes compound in the wrong direction; garbage in garbage out.

This week I have not done any long, 10+ miles runs but I’ve done some short “active recovery” runs. I’m resting in preparation for my first ever half marathon race, The Pasadena Half Marathon. Early tomorrow morning I will embark on this 3 hour run, and it’s going to be so much fun. I’ll show you guys some pictures next week.

Writing

This week my blog Torrey’s Weekly Report hit a new milestone of 70 subscribers. I take time to thank every single subscriber, because what matters more than the number is the engagement and the overall impact. This is also why I don’t spam anyone or forcibly subscribe anyone. The blog achieves nothing if no one bothers to read it. The best way to make an impact is to grow a highly engaged readership.

I didn’t realize it when I started, but the blog has a potential to tear down silos. It is a blog available only internally to my company (~20,000 employees), and it is becoming a platform for sharing useful information far and wide.

In large organizations, silos naturally form in the hierarchical command structure. Information needs to be “cascaded down” but it doesn’t, it gets stuck. There’s this great parable called Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars by Patrick Lencioni if you’re interested in these kind of problems and solutions. Basically, the organization loses effectiveness because people don’t openly communicate, share information, and collaborate across imaginary boundaries. Silos.

Anyway! Torrey’s Weekly Report is a way to tear down silos. Every week, fresh and timely information goes out to a growing list of leaders in many levels of the organization. Multiple business units and roles, from support agents to recruiters to vice presidents have subscribed.

What would even cooler than seeing the blog grow would be this. Seeing someone else get inspired, seeing another blog spring up, documenting happenings in another corner of the global enterprise. Sign me up! I’ll read it.

Reading

My morning 20 pages reading habit is going strong. I finished up two books I bought last year.

Head Strong by Dave Asprey

The Battles of Tolkien by David Day

I shared a two sentence summary of Head Strong in last week’s update.

I don’t usually read fiction, and The Battles of Tolkien isn’t entirely fiction. It talks a lot about mythical warriors and battles from many human cultures. And it draws connections between the Lord of The Rings universe’s history and these ancient human myths. For example, metallurgy and sorcery are common themes as shown by the evil anti-hero Sauron in LOTR.

I’m trying to finish up a book called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Again since I’m not at all excited about reading or writing fiction, this one is taking me forever to slog through. But it does hold some good general writing tips and references other good writing books like Strunk & White.

Lastly, I started a new book that’s been sitting on my kindle for a while. It’s called The 50th Law by Robert Greene and 50 Cent. So far it talks a lot about overcoming fear and about self-management. Robert Greene is great at finding examples from history to explain his points.

That’s all for this week. See you next time.

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #2 – January 12th, 2019

It’s the second week of the year, and 2019 is already looking great. I’m changing up the format a bit this week.

Health & Fitness

I ran another commute run. I ran 11.3 miles from home to work. And I still made it to work on time at 10am. This run was more fun than the last one. I ran through LAX, and I had some interesting encounters with strangers.

I feel confident about the Pasadena Half Marathon race coming up in 8 days. Let’s go!

Strava stats for Commute Run #2.

Family

First date night of the year, at Mendocino Farms!

Took the twins to gymnastics class, but they lost interest and just wanted to play basketball instead. Also took them to experience live music at the local public library.

Travel

No travel this week.

Education

This week I’m reading Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks by Dave Asprey. The book covers a lot of interesting science related to mitochondria health. Everything from food to lightbulbs to meditation. Also enjoyed listening to the School of Greatness Podcast with Lewis Howes and Ben Shapiro during my long run.

Work

The first full work week of 2019 was eventful. I spent a lot of time preparing for an upcoming engine release, and a little time working on an invention. A ton of time goes into engine release preparation. The team ships engines to both Norton Security and Symantec Endpoint Protection customers. The delivery reaches millions of customer’s machines around the globe. This is why code quality must be extremely high, and why so much time goes into release preparation.

Friends

Nothing notable to report here.

Writing

This week I started a morning writing habit stacked on my established reading habit. This allowed me to publish more frequently. I’m able to read 20 pages and spend 30 minutes writing because I wake up one hour before the rest of the family. Every night before I sleep I write in my journal. I’ve made 7 journal entries this week.

Torrey’s Weekly Report is a publication currently available only to Symantec employees. It enables folks across the company to learn about what my team (STAR engines) is doing. Torrey’s Blog is public, it’s where you’re reading this now.

How to Write Better Emails

Elon Musk, during a recent interview, described corporations as cybernetic collectives of people and machines. Corporations vary in size and market cap. Why are some corporations more effective than others? I think Communication is a huge part of it.

For example, Amazon.com’s unique communication style. Meetings begin with carefully prepared 6 page memos, read silently by attendees before beginning discussion.

How do most people in corporations communicate? In many cases, they communicate by sending lots of email messages. So, writing more effective emails makes you more effective and helps the rest of the team, too. Your job as a writer of emails is to save the reader’s time.

Five practical tips for being an effective emailer:

  1. Name your target
  2. Just get out with it
  3. Write shorter emails
  4. Make a phone call
  5. Avoid detective games

1. Name your target

When you’re making a request, you must have a person or person(s) in mind who can fulfill your request. Don’t be shy, name them. These people are your target.

Try not to make requests to “somebody” or “anybody” because you will end up with a response from “nobody”. Highlight or tag (@name) the name of your target to grab their attention.

2. Just get out with it

Just get out with it. State your request first and provide detailed context later. People are lazy readers, they can read the first sentence and decide whether to continue reading.

It feels unnatural to skip the build up, but do it anyway. The reader can dig into the meat if they want. Take it to the next level by making the request very succinct.

3. Write shorter emails

Write shorter emails. Try to get it done in 3 sentences or less. Most people are lazy readers, they’re not going to carefully read your wall of text. So, you’re wasting keystrokes typing all of it.

4. Make a phone call

When there is a lot of back and forth, stop using email and make a phone call. Exchanging paragraphs of text back and forth may be a signal a 10 minute phone or in-person conversation would be more effective.

5. Avoid Detective Games

If you’re referencing a document or web site or anything, hyperlink directly to what you’re talking about. Or include a screenshot/image. Better yet, draw a red box around the part of the image you’re talking about.

Don’t make me (the reader), play a game of figuring out what you’re referencing. Save me as many clicks as possible by giving me a hyperlink. Doing this makes it easier for me to understand and reply. We both get better results.

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Most of us do it. It’s human nature to compare ourself to other people. Sometimes it’s inferiority (she is better than me) and other times it’s superiority (I am better than him). Either way, it’s not very effective to dwell on those thoughts because you have very little control over the traits of other people. What has personally helped me get off these complaints is a concept I call compete against yourself.

The Circle of Influence

Stephen R. Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, explains how many of our concerns fall outside our circle of influence. We have no control over those outcomes. To be highly effective, one must focus on concerns/outcomes inside the circle of influence.

Comparing yourself to others has one foot inside and one foot outside the circle of influence. Thoughts like ‘she is better than me’ or ‘I am better than him’ are concerns where you can only control one side of the equation and not the other. You have no control over she or him. You also can’t control what people think about you. You only have control over you. Your thoughts and your actions.

Compete Against Yourself

What has greatly helped me get off these concerns is to drop the ‘she’ and ‘him’. She has 10 more years experience than you, anyway, so it’s not useful to compare apples to apples. He just started out so of course he finishes the task slower, with lower quality. That comparison isn’t so useful either.

What is useful is to know your own personal best, what you are capable of. And then try to top your best. Become 1% better than you were yesterday. It’s highly effective because you have 100% control over your own decisions, thoughts and actions. Compete against yourself!

How to Stop Complaining

I had an interesting conversation with my peers this week, where we discussed the topic of recurring complaints and acceptance of circumstances. I want to take a few words to re-share my thoughts. In the past few years, two concepts have greatly helped me get off my complaints. They are extreme ownership and going to war.

Taking Extreme Ownership to Stop Complaining

My favorite example of Extreme Ownership is this. At any moment a meteorite can fall from the sky, hit my house, and kill my whole family. Most of us decide to accept this and do nothing about it. The person who takes extreme ownership seeks out the astrophysicists working hard every day to solve this problem (tracking near-Earth objects) and donates time or money to their cause. Extreme ownership means getting over complacency and taking action.

This concept can be applied to many different situations at home and at work. If you work in a team you have likely seen breakdowns caused by a lack of clear ownership. It’s in you to like an owner, take ownership of the problem and see it through to resolution.

A simple example of how I apply this every day is meetings. Since we are a global distributed team, we make heavy use of video conferencing. Sometimes, you walk into a meeting room a few minutes early. A few people are already sitting and chatting, and the conference call isn’t connected.

The meeting host is running several minutes late from a previous meeting. You take ownership and set up the conference call, so it’s ready to go when the host arrives. By doing this you save everyone’s time. Under extreme ownership, when the meeting host is missing, you are the meeting host.

Retired Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin taught me the concept of extreme ownership through their book titled Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.

Go to War to Get Off Your Recurring Complaint

When making recurring complaints, people often give up after the first attempt to take action. The complaint persists, and sometimes it persists for a lifetime.

During our home remodel two years ago, a pile of trash was left in our driveway for nearly a week. The contractor failed to remove the demolition waste. We declared war on the pile of trash. Eventually, the battle of the trash was won.

One, it’s really useful to reframe annoying problems as battles. It also makes it easier to laugh when it’s over. How ridiculous does the “battle of the trash” sound?

Two, when you’re at war you stop complaining and get to work. It’s a crisis. You use all the resources at your disposable to win the battle. You send in your cavalry, infantry, navy, air force, whatever it takes to ensure victory. You attack from every angle. When battle is on you keep fighting for what you believe in.

To win the battle of the trash we talked to the crew leader. Then we called his boss. When he didn’t answer we kept calling. We called every day until the trash pile was gone. We told them it was unsafe (rusty nails were poking out of the pile).

Fortunately, days later our neighbor was getting a new roof. The roofer brought a big truck to haul away the roof waste. After several phone calls to the guy in charge of our project and some on-site coordination, we worked out a deal. The roofing crew came and scooped up all the junk. The battle of the trash was won. Huzzah!

If we did nothing and just complained, who knows how long it would’ve taken to fix. Before long, new problems and new complaints emerge.